Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thoughts on the Blues' Deadline Deals

When they announced on Monday that the team had signed Barrett Jackman to a new four-year deal, I knew that Sal's days were numbered. Both Jackman and Bryce Salvador were goint to be unrestricted free agents in the off-season, and with all of the young defensemen in the farm system, only one of them was going to be retained. I personally wanted the team to retain Salvador and dump Jackman, because my own viewings of the team's performance led me to believe that Salvador was the more consistent defensemen, and thus the more reliable performer. Granted, Sal is five years older than Jackman, so maybe that had something to do with it. Jackman better step it up now, though, and validate management's faith in him.

I REALLY was hoping that we could get some offensive help at the deadline when we inevitably dumped some defensive talent, but that didn't happen. We got Cam Jannsen for Salvador. The upside of Jannsen is that he is a St. Louis area native, and there is a chance that the local fans will glomp on him big time. The downside is that he is an enforcer, not a goal scorer, and we need scoring, as for whatever reason the current corps just won't/can't put the biscuit in the bag when we need points.

The dumping of Christian Backman was a good move, though. That man just never could get it together and consistently perform at even a mediocre level. I predict he'll be back in Europe in just a few years, as he doesn't seem to be able to perform at the NHL level. Some people might think that trading him for a fourth-round draft pack is a poor return, but my response is that he wasn't giving the team anything with his play, so a mid-round draft pick is better than anything we were going to get by keeping him.

In the end, a fairly middling day in Blues land, and confirmation that management knows the team won't make the playoffs this year. Expect to see most of the defensemen at Peoria play in various games the rest of the year so the coach and management can get a good look at who to put on the fast track for next year.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I recently have come across a web-based role-playing game by the (IMHO, rather silly) name Sryth. It is an entry in the rather crowded "free to play, but you pay for more content/better characters" space, which is mostly populated by Korean MMORPGs of varying quality and silliness. What sets Sryth apart, though, is the fact that Sryth is entirely text-based. It is unlike traditional computer text adventures, though. In fact, the best comparison that I can make is to the concept of the adventure gamebook (Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Golden Dragon, etc.), since you actually move through numbered sections where you read text and choose from a list of possible actions given at the end. It is much more open-ended and free-form, though, which puts it in the same space as the excellent Fabled Lands series, but with infinite room for expansion.

In opposition to the norm, the game does not use character classes. Rather, when making your character, you choose four of eight skills for your character to know, and then you improve skills with experience points you earn during game play. Thus, you can customize your character however you want, but some skills are easier to learn than others, based on your character's attributes. Thus, certain paths immediately present themselves, but you can really do whatever you want. Also, the combat system is generally well-implemented, utitlizing the capabilities of the computer to allow for a more complex system than a gamebook would allow. Specifically, you can choose from three different combat styles each round, which allows for some limited strategy. You can also flee from some combats if you are losing.

Most importantly, the game incorporates a save system that lets you save the game at specific points, which is useful and well implemented. The game is also pretty easy on you if your character dies, just putting you back at your previous save point and maybe taking a hit to your experience points. All in all, it seems to be a well-designed game. There are many, many more quests and adventures to take part in if you pay to get an "Adventurer's Guild" account, which is totally worth it if you like the game, but you can check it out and do some basic stuf for free.

The only real gripe I have about the game is that there are no real clues at the beginning of each quest to how difficult the quest will be, and therefore you can start on an adventure that your character is ill-prepared for and then get absolutely hammered in the first two minutes, thus making you feel like a moron. Some general guidelines could easily be provided on the Adventure menu, to help out new players. Other than that, though, the game seems to be really well thought-out and implemented, and I am looking forward to exploring more of as my time permits.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thank you, Charter, But Would It Kill You To Talk to Me?

I am one of Charter Communication's cable TV customers in the St. Louis area. For the most part, I am happy with the service they provide, which I realize puts me in the distinct minority. However, I have found that for a company named "Charter Communications" they seem to be really bad at the whole "communicating" thing. For example, one of the main things I use my cable TV for is watching hockey games. non-Blues games are shown on Versus and HDNet. A few weeks ago I realized while changing channels by using the "up/down" button on my remote that I suddenly had Versus in High-Definition on channel 772. Thus, I could now watch their hockey games in High-Def. This is great, but I wonder how long that had been there before I found it.

Then, a couple weeks ago while sick, I was doing some random channel surfing and noticed that I had the NHL Network on channel 410. The NHL Network, people! I can watch AHL and ECHL games! I can watch games on Wednesday! But how long have I had this channel and not known about it? I got the expanded sports package (of which it is a part) over the summer, but I don't remember it being there back in July. Did they add it in October when the season started? Did they add it two hours before I happened to run across it? I have no idea.

So, a big "thank you" to Charter for giving me more of what I want without charging me more money for it, but would it kill you to send me an email letting me know when you are going to add channels? It can't cost that much to do, and would make me happy, and you need all the happy customers you can get these days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Knew This Was Coming

There is an article in this week's issue of The Economist that notes a scientific study done on rats which showed that using artificial sweeteners, rather than real, God-created sugar, messes up your brain's signals such that you end up eating too much and therefore get fat. Scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners make you fatter than you would be if you just used regular sugar. I guess we should just do what our mothers told us and drink water, eh?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Comic Reviews

I finally have some new comic reviews up on my website. There is quite a variety of stuff this time, so check it out!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Best Election Ever

This might seem strange to some people, but I have really been enjoying watching the Democratic primaries and caucuses over the past few months. The balance between Clinton and Obama shifts back and forth, but they seem really, really even right now. Can you even imagine what it will be like if this continues through the primaries, with both of them trading winning states but nobody really locking down the nomination before the convention? We might get to see Howard Dean scream some more if that happens. I don't think at this point that anyone can really predict what will happen. Supposedly this was Clinton's election to lose, and yet we are in what is essentially a dead-heat. Exciting!

And I really liked this article by our own local curmudgeon, which really gets at an interesting point. The first sentence sells it: "Bill Clinton, who was our first black president, is now trying to become our first woman president." Because you just know that Bill isn't going to play golf and fish and eat burgers all day if his wife is the President. I don't care what his intentions are, he just won't be able to help himself, and he will dive in and simply try to take over the situation, because, God love him, he just can't help himself. Imagine being the Vice President in that setup. You really wouldn't have anything to do!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stop Whining

Do you ever notice how all of our paid pundits (Lou Dobbs, et al) are generally bemoaning the destruction of the American Republic? They should really pay more attention to what is really going on. You know, in the real world, and not the imaginary world they enjoy in their own minds.

Sports Roundup

Last Friday I went to the Blues/Ducks game at the Scottrade Center. It was a good game, though rougher on my nerves than I would have liked. It was quite odd to have "Doug Weight" night after we traded him to the Ducks, though. They pulled it off with as much class as could be mustered, but it was still odd. But, hey, they had already bought all of those statues, so they might as well use them, right?

With the Blues' overtime shootout win, that makes them 6 and 1 for games I have gone to this year, and the one loss was only by one point. I'm definitely getting my money's worth out of my tickets, this year!

And there was a football game played over the weekend that was important. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Arsenal beating Manchester City to go back to top of the Premier League table. Woooo!! Take that, United! And even though I figured I would never say such a thing, "thank you" to Tottenham for pounding on Manchester United like they did. I want them to lose every other game, but I was OK with them holding United down.

What, you want American football? Fine, fine. Yes, a hearty "congrats" to the Gianst for doing what nobody said they would, with the exceptions of Mike Ditka and Mike Celizic. However, I don't care, because those are New England teams and therefore beneath my notice. It was quite an exciting finish, though.